The work of Philomène Longpré is a fresh and innovative exploration of the intersection of art and science. MicroVision was honored to support Philomène in her quest to explore the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds, merging robotics and display technology with artistic inspiration and imagery for an immersive, theatrical experience. We invited her to discuss her responsive art systems and the role of PicoP® scanning technology in her work.
Philomène Longpré, CEREUS, Queen of the Night (2009-2012). Photo : Longpré
The immateriality of moving-images is manifest on a plethora of surfaces, shapes, and formats. As we have entered the era of materials with built-in sensing, processing, and actuating systems, screen responsiveness has reached another level of complexity and has transformed the way people perceive the world. For Anne Friedberg, modern media culture theorist, video screens act as “an organ of perception”, as spectators are continually guided through framed images, and in such context, human perception is therefore constructed differently. Today, static viewers have shifted into active participants, and fixed moving-image frames have evolved into interactive mobile displays. The ongoing technological progress of video screens demonstrates how new forms of communication stimulate us, but at the same time raises concerns about the ways in which each invention interprets and alters realities of both the tangible world surrounding the screen and the three-dimensional virtual space enclosed within.
As this intricate relationship between the physical and virtual worlds has always fascinated me, it became my main source of inspiration, as well as the focus of my research in art and technology. Since 1999, I have been devoted to the development of responsive art systems that translate body language, while exploring the interaction between both worlds. Each of my systems is composed of moving-images projected on responsive video membranes, which are mounted on robotic sculptures and placed within an interactive audio environment. Over the years, I have explored how these systems enhance the visitor’s sensory, affective, and cognitive experiences of the presented moving-images, while allowing the entire environment to move even closer to the subject matter. In fact, I am always looking forward to new and cutting-edge video technologies, innovative tools with which I can experiment.
In 2008, I first heard about the state-of-the-art MicroVision PicoP® scanning technology. This new micro laser video projector, which is not much bigger than a quarter and offers high-contrast and vivid colors, was what I had been dreaming about for years. The MicroVision PicoP® projector was the perfect display technology for my systems, not only because of its tiny size and the quality of the projected images, but also for its unique “focus free” property.
Philomène Longpré, CEREUS, Queen of the Night, 2013. Centre PHI, Elektra. Photo: Ianna Book
For my art installation, entitled CEREUS — Queen of the Night (2009–2013), that specific quality of the MicroVision projector was crucial. For this artwork, I designed and constructed six large-scale video membranes composed of laminated layers of films and vacuum formed them in the shape of petals. Each membrane could change its materiality from opaque to transparent, while capturing projected images and at the same time, reflect the images within the environment. This complex flower-like structure took me five years to build. A pneumatically driven structure, which was programmed to respond to the visitor’s presence and position in the exhibition space, could alter the shape of the sculpture by physically opening and closing. No matter the distance between my video membranes and the PicoP® projector, the moving-images were always in focus, without having to manipulate it manually or digitally. Furthermore, thanks to its tiny size and versatility, it was very easy to incorporate inside my robotic sculpture.
Philomène Longpré, CEREUS, Queen of the Night (2012), Black Box, Hexagram. Photo: Guy L’Heureux
Currently, I am pursuing my research while designing new responsive art systems, under different experimental schemes. I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to work with the MicroVision PicoP® scanning technology, as it really allowed me to push to a new level my concept of video membrane and to focus on my priority, which is, before anything else, the visitor’s embodied experience of the presented moving-images. For more information about my art systems, artistic background as well as my inspirations and research, there is a monograph published by ELLEPHANT. Throughout 260 pages, you will find insightful texts by writers: Florence de Mèredieu, Kate Mondloch, David Howes, Alison Syme, Christine Redfern and Isa Tousignant. It is available on the ELLEPHANT website : http://ellephant.org/collector/philomene-longpre/transcendare/
Philomène Longpré, Photo : Sarah Laroche, Very Much
Philomène Longpré holds a Ph.D. in Digital Arts from Concordia University in Montreal, where she conducted cutting-edge research on the matrix of sensations at the Centre for Sensory Studies and the Hexagram-Concordia Institute, an international network dedicated to research-creation in media arts, design, technology and digital culture. She also pursued her doctoral research at the DXARTS Centre at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 2004, she was awarded an American Full Trustee Scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree (MFA) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the department of Art and Technology Studies. Her systems received numerous awards for her radical innovation with video displays and her trailblazing art, namely, The 2008 OCTAS for New Media Art ; the 2005 FICFA Judith Hamel, and the 2004 Prize of Excellence from the Hexagram Institute. Longpré’s systems have been exhibited worldwide, namely: at the Art Institute of Chicago for the Festival Looptopia and Emily Davis Gallery, during Collider Festival, United States; PHI Centre, Elektra Festival, Canada; EXIT et VIA Festivals, France; SESI Art Gallery, FILE Electronic Art Festival, Brazil; AIR Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong; BUDI Busan International Festival, South Korea; Bangkok New Media Art Festival, Thailand and Festival Di Cupramontana, Italy. Longpré’s work has received support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ), the Canada Council for the Arts (CAC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and Fonds de recherche du Québec sur la société et la culture (FQRSC).
- Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2006).
- Responsive Video Membranes: Specially constructed surfaces that respond both physically and conceptually to the projected moving images.